Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Ornamental terror.

What you are about to read is 100% true. Only the names of my friends have been changed to keep them from killing me. 

When I was a kid, big glass ornaments were nearly a thing of the past. You didn't see them around much. They were going the way of the big hot bulbs. Styrofoam and plastic were more common, even if they were nowhere near as pretty. At least if the kids grabbed one of those thread-wrapped "satin ball" Styrofoam ornaments, odds were they wouldn't kill themselves with it right away. Glass? Different story. Plus, glass was more expensive to make and to ship, and you couldn't guarantee their survival from year to year like you could with plastic.

My parents had a bunch of Shiny-Brites leftover from the 60's, but the stock was dwindling. 

Christopher Radko, genius that he is, brought the age of the great glass ornament back, making gorgeous and fun ornaments in classic Shiny-Brite designs, types that reflected particular interests (firemen, bears, music, etc., etc.), fund-raising ornaments, all kinds of things. The story of Radko and his ornaments can be found here. You can find the ornaments themselves at gift shops, Bloomie's, Dillards, you name it. There used to be a store in the craft village of Sugar Loaf that sold collectibles, and seemed to exist for years on Lladró, Hummels, and Radko ornaments. 

Radko himself sold the company years ago, I have no idea how many designs are created under the Radko name annually, but they've sold millions of the things in the last thirty years. 

In these hypersensitive times, though, I am forced to put a trigger warning on my tree. Coulrophobics, avert your gaze! 

I am not personally afflicted with a fear of clowns, but I do know one grown man that I'll call Jim---a guy who likes bloody horror movies, by the way---who is stricken with a gut-wrenching terror of them. I have to hang this one toward the back of the tree in case Jim comes by. Can't take a chance that he'll catch sight of it and I'll have a Jim-shaped hole in the wall.

This is a 2007 ornament Radko produced as a fund-raiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. I got it as a freebie from a magazine for which I was working at the time. I think it's pretty cute. Sure, some clowns are scary, but these clowny folks are jolly. Most people with a mild dislike of clowns would still find much to like here. 

You can't reason with a phobia, though. I have another friend (we'll call him Pete) who is scared of snakes. and I'd be hard-pressed to introduce him to the most harmless snake in the world. He just couldn't bring himself to get near it. 

If I decide that Pete and Jim are too much trouble to have as friends, though, I can get rid of both by throwing one Christmas party. That is, if I can find these: 

WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? you might say.

Clown-headed snakes for your Christmas tree, of course! 

I suspect that the Radko line doesn't feature them now, but according to a piece in the Los Angeles Times from 1992, these are for real: "His snake ornament also has a story. 'The Victorians always had a snake on their trees to remind them of the Garden of Eden, but the snakes had clown faces so as not to scare the children.'" 

Clown-headed snakes. How could this not scare the children?!?

It does me no good at all, and it would send Jim and Pete flying out of the house. 

I think we can deduce a few things: 

1) Victorians were weird. 

2) Radko may have followed the path of tradition too far. 

3) I should get some friends who are scared of things like heights or the dark, which can't be hung on Christmas trees. 

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